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TBR News July 18, 2018

Jul 18 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8

Washington, D.C. July 18, 2018:” We will be out of the office until July 20, 2018. Ed”

 

The Table of Contents

  • US Media is Losing Its Mind Over Trump-Putin Press Conference
  • Why did Russia annex Crimea?
  • EU ‘positive’ on Russia-Ukraine gas talks
  • Commentary: Trump’s cost to U.S. credibility
  • Trump is right about who’s to blame for bad relations with Russia
  • Three out of four Democrats want ‘fresh face’ to take on Trump in 2020
  • Majority of Americans think Trump mishandling Russia: Reuters/Ipsos poll
  • Economic reality versus official fiction
  • Canada’s high Arctic glaciers at risk of disappearing completely, study finds
  • Secrecy News
  • Dirty Deeds Revealed

 

 

US Media is Losing Its Mind Over Trump-Putin Press Conference

The media’s mania over Trump’s Helsinki performance and the so-called Russia-gate scandal reached new depths on Monday

July 16, 2018

by Joe Lauria

Consortium News

The reaction of the U.S. establishment media and several political leaders to President Donald Trump’s press conference after his summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday has been stunning.

Writing in The Atlantic, James Fallows said:

“There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not  realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions … never before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people.”

As soon as the press conference ended CNN cut to its panel with these words from TV personality Anderson Cooper: “You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader, surely, that I’ve ever seen.”

David Gergen, who for years has gotten away with portraying himself on TV as an impartial political sage, then told CNN viewers:

“I’ve never heard an American President talk that way but I think it is especially true that when he’s with someone like Putin, who is a thug, a world-class thug, that he sides with him again and again against his own country’s interests of his own institutions that he runs, that he’s in charge of the federal government, he’s in charge of these intelligence agencies, and he basically dismisses them and retreats into this, we’ve heard it before, but on the international stage to talk about Hillary Clinton’s computer server …”

“It’s embarrassing,” interjected Cooper.

“It’s embarrassing,” agreed Gergen.

White House correspondent Jim Acosta, ostensibly an objective reporter, then gave his opinion: “I think that sums it up nicely. This is the president of the United States essentially taking the word of the Russian president…over his own intelligence community. It was astonishing, just astonishing to be in the room with the U.S. president and the Russian president on this critical question of election interference, and to retreat back to these talking points about DNC servers and Hillary Clinton’s emails when he had a chance right there in front of the world to tell Vladimir Putin to stay the HELL out of American democracy, and he didn’t do it.”

In other words Trump should just shut up and not question a questionable indictment, which Acosta, like nearly all the media, treat as a conviction.

The Media’s Handlers

The media’s handlers were even worse than their assets. Former CIA director John Brennan tweeted: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors,.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Here’s where the Republican Patriots are, Brennan: “That’s how a press conference sounds when an Asset stands next to his Handler,” former RNC Chairman Michael Steele tweeted.

Representative Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, said on Twitter: “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s defense of Putin against the intelligence agencies of the U.S. & his suggestion of moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. Russia poses a grave threat to our national security.”

All these were reactions to Trump expressing skepticism about the U.S. indictment on Friday of 12 Russian intelligence agents for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election while he was standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the press conference following their summit meeting in Helsinki.

“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia, Trump said. “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

The indictments, which are only unproven accusations, formally accused 12 members of the GRU, Russian military intelligence, of stealing Democratic Party emails in a hacking operation and giving the materials to WikiLeaks to publish in order to damage the candidacy of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. The indictments were announced on Friday, three days before the summit, with the clear intention of getting Trump to cancel it. He ignored cries from the media and Congress to do so.

Over the weekend Michael Smerconish on CNN actually said the indictments proved that Russia had committed a “terrorist attack” against the United States. This is in line with many pundits who are comparing this indictment, that will most likely never produce any evidence, to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. The danger inherent in that thinking is clear.

Putin said the allegations are “utter nonsense, just like [Trump] recently mentioned.” He added: “The final conclusion in this kind of dispute can only be delivered by a trial, by the court. Not by the executive, by the law enforcement.” He could have added not by the media.

Trump reasonably questioned why the FBI never examined the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee to see whether there was a hack and who may have done it. Instead a private company, CrowdStrike, hired by the Democratic Party studied the server and within a day blamed Russia on very dubious grounds.

“Why haven’t they taken the server?” Trump asked. “Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server and what is the server saying?”

But being a poor communicator, Trump then mentioned Clinton’s missing emails, allowing the media to conflate the two different servers, and be easily dismissed as Gergen did.

At the press conference, Putin offered to allow American investigators from the team of special counsel Robert Mueller, who put the indictment together, to travel to Russia and take part in interviews with the 12 accused Russian agents. He also offered to set up a joint cyber-security group to examine the evidence and asked that in return Russia be allowed to question persons of interest to Moscow in the United States.

“Let’s discuss the specific issues and not use the Russia and U.S. relationship as a loose change for this internal political struggle,” Putin said.

On CNN, Christiane Amanpour called Putin’s clear offer “obfuscation.”

Even if Trump agreed to this reasonable proposal it seems highly unlikely that his Justice Department will go along with it. Examination of whatever evidence they have to back up the indictment is not what the DOJ is after. As I wrote about the indictments in detail on Friday:

“The extremely remote possibility of convictions were not what Mueller was apparently after, but rather the public perception of Russia’s guilt resulting from fevered media coverage of what are after all only accusations, presented as though it is established fact. Once that impression is settled into the public consciousness, Mueller’s mission would appear to be accomplished.”

Still No ‘Collusion’

The indictments did not include any members of Trump’s campaign team for “colluding” with the alleged Russian hacking effort, which has been a core allegation throughout the two years of the so-called Russia-gate scandal. Those allegations are routinely reported in U.S. media as established fact, though there is still no evidence of collusion.

Trump emphasised that point in the press conference. “There was no collusion at all,” he said forcefully. “Everybody knows it.”

On this point corporate media has been more deluded than normal as they clutch for straws to prove the collusion theory. As one example of many across the media with the same theme, a New York Times story on Friday, headlined, “Trump Invited the Russians to Hack Clinton. Were They Listening?,” said Russia may have absurdly responded to Trump’s call at 10:30 a.m. on July 27, 2016 to hack Clinton’s private email server because it was “on or about” that day that Russia allegedly first made an attempt to hack Clinton’s personal emails, according to the indictment, which makes no connection between the two events.

If Russia is indeed guilty of remotely hacking the emails it would have had no evident need of assistance from anyone on the Trump team, let alone a public call from Trump on national TV to commence the operation.

More importantly, as Twitter handle “Representative Press” pointed out: “Trump’s July 27, 2016 call to find the missing 30,000 emails could not be a ‘call to hack Clinton’s server’ because at that point it was no longer online. Long before Trump’s statement, Clinton had already turned over her email server to the U.S. Department of Justice.” Either the indictment was talking about different servers or it is being intentionally misleading when it says “on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”

This crucial fact alone, that Clinton had turned over the server in 2015 so that no hack was possible, makes it impossible that Trump’s TV call could be seen as collusion. Only a desperate person would see it otherwise.

But there is a simple explanation why establishment journalists are in unison in their dominant Russian narrative: it is career suicide to question it.

As Samuel Johnson said as far back as 1745: “The greatest part of mankind have no other reason for their opinions than that they are in fashion …since vanity and credulity cooperate in its favour.”

Importance of US-Russia Relations

Trump said the unproven allegation of collusion “has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.”

The American president said the U.S. has been “foolish” not to attempt dialogue with Russia before, to cooperate on a range of issues.

“As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct,” Trump said. “Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia forwards the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world. I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.”

This main reason for summits between Russian and American leaders was also ignored: to use diplomacy to reduce dangerous tensions. “I really think the world wants to see us get along,” Trump said. “We are the two great nuclear powers. We have 90 percent of the nuclear. And that’s not a good thing, it’s a bad thing.”

Preventing good relations between the two countries appears to be the heart of the matter for U.S. intelligence and their media assets. So Trump was vilified for even trying.

Ignoring the Rest of the Story

Obsessed as they are with the “interference” story, the media virtually ignored the other crucial issues that came up at the summit, such as the Middle East.

Trump sort of thanked Russia for its efforts to defeat ISIS. “When you look at all of the progress that’s been made in certain sections with the eradication of ISIS, about 98 percent, 99 percent there, and other things that have taken place that we have done and that, frankly, Russia has helped us with in certain respects,” he said.

Trump here is falsely taking credit, as he has before, for defeating ISIS with only some “help” from Russia. In Iraq the U.S. led the way against ISIS coordinating the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces. But in the separate war against ISIS in Syria, Russia, the Syrian Arab Army, Kurdish forces, Iranian troops and Hizbullah militias were almost entirely responsible for ISIS’ defeat.

Also on Syria, Trump appeared to endorse what is being reported as a deal between Russia and Israel in which Israel would accept Bashar al-Assad remaining as Syrian president, while Russia would work on Iran to get it to remove its forces away from the northern Golan Heights, which Israel illegally considers its border with Syria.

After a meeting in Moscow last week with Putin, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he accepted Assad remaining in power.

“President Putin also is helping Israel,” Trump said at the press conference. “We both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu. They would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel. In that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel. Israel will be working with us. So both countries would work jointly.”

Trump also said that the U.S. and Russian militaries were coordinating in Syria, but he did not go as far as saying that they had agreed to fight together there, which has been a longstanding proposal of Putin’s dating back to September 2015, just before Moscow intervened militarily in the country.

“Our militaries have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years,” Trump said. “Our militaries do get along very well. They do coordinate in Syria and other places.”

Trump said Russia and the U.S. should cooperate in humanitarian assistance in Syria.

“If we can do something to help the people of Syria get back into some form of shelter and on a humanitarian basis…that’s what the word was, a humanitarian basis,” he said. “I think both of us would be very interested in doing that.”

Putin said he had agreed on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron on a joint effort with Europe to deliver humanitarian aid. “On our behalf, we will provide military cargo aircraft to deliver humanitarian cargo. Today, I brought up this issue with President Trump. I think there’s plenty of things to look into,” Putin said.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers.

 

Why did Russia annex Crimea?

Quora

Crimea rejoined Russia in a referendum that was held in March 2014.

As to why Russia wanted to rejoin with Crimea, is because of the large Russian population in Crimea, the strategic value of the peninsula and because historically it had always been Russian territory.

  1. A large Russian population in the peninsula.

There around 1 and a half million Russians in Crimea. Journalist Courtney Weaver wrote about Sevastopol’s population:

Its population is not only Russian-speaking but also primarily ethnically Russian, thanks in part to the Russian naval base, which to this day remains in full operation.

Olga Timofeyeva, a local pro-Russia activist, summed up the views of many in Crimea when she said it was “the most cherished dream” of Sevastopol’s residents for the city to return to Russian territory.

“Being without Russia, for us, is like being homeless. It is like someone boiled off a piece of our heart and discarded it far away . . . like there’s not enough air to breathe,” she said.

  1. The strategic location of the peninsula.

The naval base in Sevastopol was constructed by Russia in 1783. So it has tremendous historical value to Russia. Currently, the base is the home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and it has around 12.000 soldiers, 45 ships and 7 submarines. From here Russia can access both the Black and the Mediterranean seas. This base was used during the 2008 war with Georgia and its currently used to move the Russian fleet to Syrian waters.

  1. Historically, it has always been Russian territory.

Crimea has been part of Russia since 1783. It was only transferred to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, in a goodwill move to the Ukrainians, despite the large majority of the Russian population there. In May 1992, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Crimean parliament voted for independence from the Ukraine, but the move was blocked by Kiev.

And now Crimea is back with Russia.

While most of the western media has used “annexation” as a term that describes the events in Crimea in February and March 2014, those events have never been formally established as annexation by any court or other legal international body.

The Russian Federation did not annex Crimea!

The people of Crimea and Sevastopol had voted in a plebiscite on March 16, 2014 to secede from Ukraine, following an anti-constitutional coup in Kiev in February 2014. Crimea had always been an Autonomous Oblast in Ukraine, see Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea – Wikipedia, as was declared in 1992. Since then it was their desire to secede from Ukraine. Seeing who came to power in Kiev in a wave of violent pandemonium of Western Ukraine ultra-nationalists, that had highjacked the peaceful protests in the Maidan in the beginning of 2014, the people of Crimea had acted in self defense to prevent the bloodshed and violence in their home. After all Crimea was not supposed to be in Ukraine in the first place, it was “gifted” to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954 illegally by the Ukrainian Secretary General of the Soviet Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev. As a matter of fact this mistake should have been corrected during the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 as per Belavezha Accords, that provided for a referendum of autonomous oblasts of the Soviet Republics, which Crimea was at that time. Independent Ukraine kept the Crimean peninsula, but as an autonomous region, that was entitled to a referendum. And so they did first in December 1991 (followed by declaration of independence in May 1992, that was annulled by Kiev) and more recently in March 2014. Once Crimea and separately Sevastopol became independent legal entities, they have submitted a formal request to join the Russian Federation. That request was granted, as expected, so, legally there was no annexation!

If you prefer to play with semantics, try this definition: “the Crimean people had exercised their inalienable right to self-determination and had expressed their free will to liberate their homeland from the 21 years of the illegal Ukrainian occupation.”

 

EU ‘positive’ on Russia-Ukraine gas talks

Talks have taken place in Berlin with the EU, Ukraine and Russia over the transit of gas from Russia to Europe. The forthcoming Nord Stream 2 project has stoked Ukrainian fears of economic isolation.

July 17, 2018

DW

The EU sounded an optimistic note on Tuesday following talks in Berlin with envoys from Moscow and Kiev over a dispute regarding future Russian gas shipments through Ukraine.

According to European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, the three-way talks were “future-oriented” and “positive” although the Russian representative, the country’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak said “the issues at stake are very complicated and need serious discussions to move forward.”

Large amounts of Russian gas are currently pumped to Europe via Ukraine, resulting in lucrative and critically important transit fees for the country. However, Ukraine holds deep concerns over the proposed Nord Stream 2 project, which will see a Baltic Sea pipeline opened from Russia to Germany, potentially ending the need for the transportation of gas through Ukraine.

The new pipeline, which Germany insists is purely a “commercial” project, is set to open in late 2019, but under pressure from allies, Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier this year that Ukraine must not be isolated and must continue to play an important role in the transit of gas to Europe.With that in mind, the EU’s Sefkovic met in Berlin with Novak and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin in an attempt to broker a deal satisfactory to all parties.

“Constructive atmosphere”

Sefcovic said the talks — which included executives from Russian gas giant Gazprom and its Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz  — helped bring about “trust and a constructive approach”, something which was necessary because “time is of the essence, the clock is ticking”, with all parties needing to agree a new contract before the start of 2020.

Novak agreed that there had been a “constructive” atmosphere but was cautious on any future deal which might appease the Ukrainian side. “We are ready to prolong the current contract,” he acknowledged, adding that “the volumes are technical issues” that needed to be discussed between the companies.

Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, an armed conflict has simmered in the region, causing major tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Gazprom has cut the volume of gas transiting through Ukraine since then and the current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that Nord Stream 2 will amount to an “economic and energy blockade” of his country.

Russian gas a powerful commodity

Russia, with its vast Siberian gas fields, has the world’s largest natural gas reserves, and with European demand rising in the face of decreased European production, Gazprom’s gas exports west have reached record levels.

Gazprom and its partners plan to complete the 1,200 km (750 mile) Nord Stream 2 pipeline at some stage in 2019, effectively doubling Russian shipments now flowing through the existing Nord Stream 1 line.

As well as prompting fears in Ukraine, the project has led to EU fears that European over-reliance on Russian gas could see the issue of energy exports used for political leverage in other disputes.

US President Donald Trump weighed in on the matter last week, saying that Germany was “a captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia”.

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his Helsinki meeting on Monday with Trump that Russia was ready to continue transporting gas via Ukraine after Nord Stream 2 becomes operational, as long as current legal disputes — now in front of a Swedish court — are settled.

 

Commentary: Trump’s cost to U.S. credibility

July 17, 2018

by Peter Van Buren

Reuters

I remember when as an American diplomat I realized my White House was no longer credible. We may be at that same point in the Trump presidency.

My moment was in 2006, in Hong Kong, where I was assigned to the American Consulate. It had been a difficult few years as an American diplomat, as crimes against humanity under the George W. Bush administration were being talked about in government circles, even if they had not yet been acknowledged publicly. America was torturing people. American troops invaded Iraq under a blanket of lies. And America opened a prison at Guantanamo. It was there the United States held Omar Khadr, and the Canadians wanted him out.

Omar Khadr was a 15-year-old Canadian grabbed off the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2002, believed to have killed an American soldier. After learning the teenager had been tortured, the Canadians wanted him transferred to their custody for his own safety, and in 2006 ordered their diplomats to make that demand (a demarche in diplomatic language) to every American foreign service post. I had never heard of Khadr before, but hearing from the Canadians how he had been treated I realized America had no credibility left when, among other things, it criticized Saddam Hussein for harming his own people and used that behavior as a secondary justification for the Iraq invasion.

At the table in Hong Kong we knew none of us were going to free Omar Khadr, but the Canadians did their job and I did mine, pre-written talking points all around. We knew each other, and our kids went to the same school. So informally I also heard “we may not be able to work with you anymore on a lot of things if this fails.” Canada had sent troops to Afghanistan, withheld them from Iraq under American criticism, but the message was now a step too far had been taken, and while routine business would continue, they were probably going to wait on any big stuff until George W. Bush was out of office. (Khadr was released to Canadian custody in 2012, and freed in Canada in 2015.)

I am hearing from former colleagues in diplomacy and intelligence that Helsinki may have been a similar moment, requiring now a resolution of some sort to maintain credibility in America’s international interactions. Trump still has more than two years left of his term, perhaps six if he is re-elected – far too long to wait out given the number of global issues requiring international cooperation.

As a diplomat you represent your own complicated country, and all sides understand that. But from the secretary of state on down, credibility is a crucial tool in getting things done. Can you be trusted, not just personally, but to accurately convey what Washington wants to say to its allies, friends, and those it negotiates against? If you explain an American policy today, and the other side acts on that only to find the president tweeting out something else, however close your relationship may be personally with your counterparts, across the table you become a non-entity.

If I was in an embassy job today and was asked informally by an ally to explain the president’s remarks in Helsinki, I would stumble for coherence. I know those foreign diplomats are reading the same media I am: a columnist in the New York Times calling Trump a traitor, an article in New York magazine speculating Putin was Trump’s intelligence handler, a call by a former CIA director to impeach the president, former counter-terrorism coordinator Richard A. Clarke speculating Trump was meeting with Putin to receive his next set of orders, a former intelligence officer warning “we’re on the cusp of losing the American constitutional republic forever,” or maybe just the parsed criticism of Trump from within his own party.

And alongside of all that, an indictment of Russian military personnel for hacking into the Democratic National Committee servers, the details released at a time that can only be read as an attempt to disrupt whatever initiatives Trump planned to pursue with Russia, followed by an arrest of a Russian agent timed to bookend the Helsinki summit. Some overseas will perceive those acts as a power struggle within the American government.

After what at best can be called a bizarre performance by Trump in Helsinki, how can American diplomats assure their counterparts they know who is in charge, that what they claim is American policy actually is policy, and that… that… in some way the president of the United States is not more sympathetic to an adversary than to his allies? No American diplomat today can answer to those points. It was thus unsurprising Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had little to say in Helsinki.

America’s global needs cannot wait out a Trump presidency, nor do they appear able to wait out whatever investigative process has been underway through two administrations. American intelligence officials began looking into “Russiagate” two years ago, with little substantive action taken by the Obama administration. The process has continued on the intelligence side undisturbed, along with new efforts by various parts of Congress, and by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The multiple threads do not appear driven by a sense of crisis, and that is wrong.

There have of course been far worse moments in American history: the presidents who watched helplessly as the storm over slavery broke into Civil War, FDR and the Japanese internment camps, Richard Nixon bombing Vietnamese civilians and prolonging the Vietnam war to help get himself reelected, and George W. Bush setting the Middle East aflame.

But we are here now, and the message from Helsinki is that it’s time for Washington’s investigators either to present evidence that Trump or his close associates actively worked with the Russian government, and thus remain beholden to it, or make it clear that is not the case. Getting things done in the world requires credibility, and it is now time to set aside chasing indictments that will never see the inside of a courtroom, those concerning financial crimes unconnected to the campaign, and a clumsy series of perjury cases. Post-Helsinki, we – America’s diplomats, its allies, its people – need to know who is running the United States.

About the Author

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan. @WeMeantWell

 

Trump is right about who’s to blame for bad relations with Russia

Washington’s naiveté regarding Moscow comes not from the current administration, but from previous presidents who foolishly designed to reshape Russia in America’s image

July 17, 2018

by David P. Goldman

Asia Times

US President Donald Trump offended the entire political spectrum with a tweet this morning blaming Washington for poor relations with Russia. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity,” the president said, and he is entirely correct.

By this, I do not mean to say that Russia is a beneficent actor in world affairs or that Russian President Vladimir Putin is an admirable world leader. Nonetheless, the president displayed both perspicacity and political courage when he pointed the finger at the United States for mismanaging the relationship with Russia.

Full disclosure: I was a card-carrying member of the neoconservative cabal that planned to bring Western-style democracy and free markets to Russia after the fall of Communism. As chief economist for the supply-side consulting firm Polyconomics, I got an appointment as an adviser to Boris Yeltsin’s finance ministry and made several trips to Moscow.

Of course, the finance ministry really was a family office for Yeltsin’s oligarch friends, who were too busy stealing Russia’s economy to listen to advice. The experience cured me of the neoconservative delusion that democracy and free markets are the natural order of things.

Unfortunately, the delusion that the United States would remake Russia in its own image persisted through the Bush and Obama administrations. I have no reason to doubt the allegations that a dozen Russian intelligence officers meddled in the US elections of 2016, but this was equivalent of a fraternity prank compared to America’s longstanding efforts to intervene in Russian politics.

The United States supported the 2014 Maidan uprising in Ukraine and the overthrow of the Yanukovych government in the hope of repeating the exercise in Moscow sometime later. Then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland pulled whatever strings America had to replace the feckless and corrupt Victor Yanukovych with a government hostile to the Kremlin. She didn’t say it in so many words, but she hoped the Ukraine coup would lead to the overthrow of Vladimir Putin.

Evidently, Nuland and her boss, Hillary Clinton, thought that the Ukraine coup would deprive Russia of its Black Sea naval base in Crimea, and did not anticipate that Russia simply would annex an old Russian province that belonged to Ukraine by historical accident.

At the time, liberal opinion evanesced with the notion that Moscow would follow Maidan. The Christian Science Monitor reported in February 2014, “Some in Russia’s liberal community see in the Maidan a hope that the Kremlin, no matter how solid it looks, could one day crack under similar popular pressure.

‘What we are seeing in Ukraine is the realization of the Ukrainian people’s aspiration for democracy, of the right to revolt,’ says Sergei Davidis, a board member of Solidarnost, a liberal opposition coalition. ‘It doesn’t mean we’re ready to follow that example. Russian conditions are different. But in the long run, as the contradictions pile up, we may well come to the same pass and find ourselves with no alternatives but the Ukrainian one.’” Of course, no such thing occurred.

The Maidan coup was the second American attempt to install a Ukrainian government hostile to Moscow; the first occurred in 2004, when Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State rather than Hillary Clinton. As I wrote in Asia Times a decade ago, “On the night of November 22, 2004, then-Russian president – now premier – Vladimir Putin watched the television news in his dacha near Moscow. People who were with Putin that night report his anger and disbelief at the unfolding ‘Orange’ revolution in Ukraine. ‘They lied to me,’ Putin said bitterly of the United States. ‘I’ll never trust them again.’ The Russians still can’t fathom why the West threw over a potential strategic alliance for Ukraine. They underestimate the stupidity of the West.”

American efforts to promote a democratic opposition to Putin have failed miserably, and as John Lloyd wrote recently at Reuters, the Russian president remains genuinely popular. This remains a source of perpetual frustration for the neoconservatives, who cannot fathom why dictatorships still exist.

Russia is a brutal country that always has been governed by brutal men. No one talks about Ivan the Reasonable. Compared to Peter the Great or Alexander II, let alone Stalin or Ivan the Terrible, Putin is one of Russia’s gentler heads of state. I attempted to explain why in this 2016 essay for Asia Times.

Thanks to President Trump, Russia (as well as China) now understands that America’s intervention in Iraq was not a deliberate effort to destabilize the region, and that its support for Sunni jihadists in Syria was not a deliberate effort to create an Islamist monster with which to destabilize Russia. Under the headline “They’ll never believe we’re that stupid,” I wrote in May 2015:

“Beijing and Moscow made up their minds some time ago that the United States had deliberately unleashed chaos on the Levant as part of a malevolent plan of some kind. The Chinese and Russians (and most of the rest of the world) simply cannot process the notion that the United States is run by clueless amateurs who stumble from one half-baked initiative to another, with no overall plan (except, of course, to persuade the Persians to become America’s friends rather than enemies).

Incompetence has consequences. One of the consequences will be that our competitors and adversaries will take us for knaves instead of fools, or even worse, will recognize that we are fools after all.”

Russia is in crisis, but Russia always is in crisis. Russia has a brutal government, but Russia always has had a brutal government, and by every indication, the people of Russia nonetheless seem to like their government. If they want a different sort of government, let them establish one; what sort of government they prefer is not the business of the United States. America’s attempt to shape Russia’s destiny, starting with the Clinton Administration’s sponsorship of the feckless, drunk and corrupt Boris Yeltsin, had baleful results. So did the State Department’s attempt to manipulate events in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014.

That’s why President Trump’s tweet this morning is entirely correct. Once again, it is refreshing to hear an American president cut through the cant and tell the unvarnished truth.

 

 

Three out of four Democrats want ‘fresh face’ to take on Trump in 2020

July 17, 2018

RT

As speculation mounts over who, if anyone, can unseat US President Donald Trump in 2020, 73 percent of Democrats want their party to move away from the familiar candidates and run someone new.

Among likely Democrat voters, only 16 percent think the party should promote a candidate who has run before, like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, a Rasmussen poll found. A whopping 73 percent of those surveyed felt that the party needs new blood to challenge Trump.

While speculation over candidates will begin in earnest after this year’s midterm elections, some prominent figures have been positioning themselves for a bid at the presidency.

Considered a shoo-in in 2016, Hillary Clinton lost after running a tone-deaf campaign dogged by an ongoing FBI investigation and rumors of health problems. Despite a flurry of email communication from Clinton and a series of recent campaign-style speeches, rumors of a possible 2020 run have been dismissed by her former campaign strategist as a “pipe dream.”

According to Rasmussen, the Democratic Party would do well to leave Clinton off the ticket. Only 22 percent of Democrat voters think Clinton has been good for the party, while 58 percent think she’s damaged its standing.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has emerged from the ranks of the Democratic establishment as a possible 2020 contender. Days before departing the White House, Biden told reporters that he is “going to run in 2020,” but he later dismissed that statement, saying “I am not committed to anything.”

Since Trump’s inauguration, Biden has been a vocal critic of the president, and he reportedly intends to up his appearances on the campaign trail, supporting other Democrats in the runup to the midterms. A Harvard poll released in late June found that almost a third of registered Democrats would back the former VP for the party’s 2020 nomination, making him the front-runner by over 10 points.

Still, Biden has run for the presidency twice before, and he will be 77 years old when Americans go to the polls in 2020 – hardly the young blood the party needs. Likewise, his moderate positions and calls for bipartisanship are looking increasingly out of step with the party’s more militant progressive wing; and his notorious handsy-ness and ‘creepy uncle’ image might not sit well with millennial voters in the #MeToo era.

The shock primary victory of self-professed ‘Democratic Socialist’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York last month illustrated the growing divide within the party between progressives and the establishment, represented by Biden and Clinton.

Several progressive candidates, like Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kamala Harris (D-California) have also been drumming up support in the run-up to 2020, but the party leadership will have to ask itself whether it can get behind candidates who support policies so far left they would be unrecognizable to the party of John F. Kennedy or even Bill Clinton.

Surfing the wave of outrage over the Trump administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy, Warren and Harris have both called for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while Booker has dodged the question in TV interviews.

While the social-justice rhetoric of all three candidates might please the anti-Trump #Resistance, it may not strike a chord with swing voters or with America’s white underclass, traditional Democrat voters who turned to Trump in 2016.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) remains probably the best-known and most palatable progressive in the party today, and came in second in June’s Harvard poll, behind Biden.

However, like Biden, he has run for president before. Time is even less on Sanders’ side too: the venerable socialist will be 79 by November 2020, and he might not withstand the rigors of a presidential campaign.

Whether the Democratic Party rallies behind a progressive, an establishment candidate, or a yet-unknown ace-in-the-hole outsider in 2020, their presidential hopeful may face an uphill battle. While President Trump’s approval ratings are mixed, unemployment is at a record low,* wage growth is up, and the tax cuts have put some extra spending money into workers’ pockets, leaving the Democrats to hope that Trump somehow tanks the economy between now and November 2020.

*see story Economic reality versus official fiction below for a more accurate figure. ed

 

Majority of Americans think Trump mishandling Russia: Reuters/Ipsos poll

July 17, 2018

by Damon Darlin and Chris Kahn

Reuters

More than half of Americans disapprove of the way U.S. President Donald Trump is handling relations with Russia, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after his controversial summit and joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, Trump’s performance at the Helsinki summit, where Trump refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and cast doubt on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies, did not seem to have an impact on his overall approval rating.

Forty-two percent of registered voters said they approved of Trump’s performance in office in the latest opinion poll, compared with a daily average of between 40 and 44 percent so far in July.

The poll found that 55 percent of registered voters disapproved while 37 percent approved of his handling of relations with Russia.

Among Republicans, 71 percent approved of his handling of Russia compared to 14 percent of Democrats.

Trump still enjoys broad support among Republican voters despite criticism from party leaders about his words and actions while standing alongside the Russian leader answering questions from reporters, the poll results showed.

Trump surprised even his supporters when he praised the Russian leader during the news conference for his “strong and powerful” denial of meddling.

On Tuesday, Trump attempted to calm the political storm following his remarks, saying he misspoke at the news conference and had full confidence in U.S. agencies. But he appeared to veer from his script to add: “It could be other people also – there’s a lot of people out there,” he said.

A majority of registered voters, 59 percent, agree with the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia attempted to influence the U.S. election, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found. But only 32 percent of Republicans think that is true compared to 84 percent of Democrats.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll also revealed a distinct split among Republican and Democratic voters over whether Russia should be considered an adversary of the United States.

Overall, 38 percent of registered voters agreed that Russia is an enemy of the United States. About the same percent considered Russia “a competitor” while 8 percent said it was “a friend.”

However, half the Democrats said it was an enemy while only about one in three Republicans considered it so.

Forty percent of Democrats described Russia as an imminent threat while only 14 percent of Republicans agreed.

Overall, 27 percent of registered voters considered Russia an imminent threat. Only North Korea got a higher response on that question, 31 percent.

The poll also asked Americans whether they think authorities will find evidence of an illegal relationship between the Trump administration and Russia. A slim majority, 51 percent, said it was likely, while 77 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans did.

The same general split was true when asked if Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Overall, 52 percent of registered voters agreed. But 81 percent of Democrats said that was true versus 19 percent of Republicans.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll gathered responses from 1,011 registered voters throughout the United States, including 453 Republicans and 399 Democrats. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points.

Written by Damon Darlin; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool

Economic reality versus official fiction

July 18, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Once the most powerful nation, the United States is rapidly losing its premier position in the international sphere while at the same time facing a potential serious anti-government political movement developing in that country. The number of unemployed in the United States today is approximately 97,000,000. Official American sources claim that employment is always improving but in fact it is not. Most official governmental releases reflect wishful thinking or are designed to placate the public

This situation is caused by the movement, by management, of manufacturing businesses to foreign labor markets. While these removals can indeed save the companies a great deal of expenditure on domestic labor, by sharply reducing their former worker bodies to a small number, the companies have reduced the number of prospective purchasers of expensive items like automobiles.

The U.S. government’s total revenue is estimated to be $3.654 trillion for fiscal year 2018.

  • Personal income taxes contribute $1.836 trillion, half of the total.
  • Another third ($1.224 trillion) comes from payroll taxes.

This includes $892 billion for Social Security, $270 billion for Medicare and $50 billion for unemployment insurance.

  • Corporate taxes add $355 billion, only 10 percent.
  • Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $146 billion, just 4 percent
  • The Federal Reserve’s net income adds $70 billion.
  • The remaining $23 billion of federal income comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts.
  • The use of secret offshore accounts by US citizens to evade U.S. federal taxes costs the U.S. Department of the Treasury well over $100 billion annually.

By moving from a producing to an importing entity, the United States has developed, and is developing, serious sociological and economic problems in a significant number of its citizens, and many suffer from serious health problems that are not treated.

It is estimated that over 500,000 American citizens are without any form of housing. Many of these people either are living on the streets, in public parks, living in cars or in charity shelters. There are at present over 200,000 family groups in America with over 300,000 individuals involved and 25% of the total are minor children.

Over 80,000 individuals are permanently without any residence. Many of these have physical disabilities such as chronic alcoholism or drug addiction. Many are classified as having severe mental disorders.

About 50,000 of these homeless individuals are military veterans, many of whom have serious physical or mental problems. One of the most common mental disorders is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Governmental treatment for these individuals is virtually non-existent.  Approximately half of this number are either black or Latin American (“Hispanics” in official designation.)

Of the total number of the homeless individuals, approximately 10% are female.

Official but private, estimates are that there over 500,000 youths below the age of 24 in current American society that find themselves homeless for periods lasting from one week to a permanent status.

Over 100,000 of this class are young people who are defined as being homosexual. Those in this class find themselves persecuted to a considerable degree by society in general and their peer groups in specific.

Approximately 50% of this homeless population are over the age of 50, many of whom suffer from chronic, debilitating physical illnesses that are not treated.

Drug deaths in the U.S. in 2017 exceeded 60,000.  Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescriptions. Opioids are a class of strong painkillers drugs and include Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin which are synthetic drugs designed to resemble opiates such as opium derived morphine and heroin. The most dangerous opioid is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. The increasing demand for these drugs is causing them to be manufactured outside the United States.

Suicide is the primary cause of “injury death” in the United States and more U.S. military personnel on active duty have killed themselves than were killed in combat last year.

The growing instability of American families is manifested by the fact that:

  • One out of every three children in America lives in a home without a father.
  • More than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock for women under the age of 30 living in the United States
  • The United States has the highest child abuse death rate in the developed world.
  • The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world although the numbers have declined in recent years due to the use of contraceptives.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the largest total prison population in the entire world. The criminal justice system in the United States holds more than 4,166,000 people in 1,719 state prisons, 102,000 in federal prisons, 901,000 in juvenile correctional facilities, and 3,163,000 in local jails. Additionally, 5,203,400 adults are on probation or on parole.

The number of people on probation or parole has increased the population of the American corrections system to more than 9,369,400 in 2017. Corrections costs the American taxpayer $69 billion a year.

There are a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (67 million by conservative estimate) which have been sliced up, put into so-called “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign. This problem has been covered up by American authorities by cloaking the facts in something called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)

This results in the fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own.

Another festering problem consists of the official loans made to students in colleges and universities in the U.S. the predatory nature of the $90 billion student loan industry. These so-called student loans are the most serious economic problem faced today by American university students.

This problem arose due to federal legislation originating in the mid-1990s which effectively removed basic consumer protections from student loans, thus permitting extensive penalties and the methodology for enforced collection.

Because of the highly inflated cost of higher American education, very few students from high school can afford university education. The new college graduate has, on average, a student loan in excess of $20,000 and students attending graduate programs have average debts of over $40,000.

America today has seriously failing public school systems. Upper economic class Americans are able to send their children to expensive private schools and avoid the exceedingly incompetent public systems. The average American lower school graduates are only a step above illiteracy and their lack of knowledge of world affairs is quite unbelievable.

A small number of extremely wealthy men control and operate all of the major American print and television media.

Each of the few very powerful, rich men have their own reasons for deciding what qualifies as news.

But the public in America now gets its news, without cost, from various internet sites and the circulation number of major print news has dropped dramatically. This has forced the internet editions of the print news media to erect what they call “paywalls.” This permits a very limited number of articles to be read or downloaded before the system demands money for the use of additional material.

The major print media in America is faced with imminent bankruptcy and are making frantic efforts at attempts to prevent free news sites from being aired on the internet.

Government surveillance of the American public is very widespread and at the present time, almost every aspect of an American citizen, or resident, is available for official surveillance. This includes mail, television viewing, telephone conversations, computer communications, travel, ownership of property, medical and school records, banking and credit card transactions, inheritances and other aspects of a citizen’s daily life.

This is done to circumvent any possible organization that could contravene official government policy and has its roots in massive civil resistance to governmental policy during the war in Vietnam. The government does not want a reprise of that problem and its growing surveillance is designed to carefully watch any citizen, or groups of citizens, who might, present or future, pose a threat to government policy.

Another factor to be considered is the current American attitudes towards racial issues. There has always been prejudice in the United States against blacks. In 1943 there were bloody riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, the former aimed at blacks and the latter against Mexicans. Since then, there has been chronic racial prejudice but it has been relatively small and very local. Also, there is growing anti-Semitic prejudice in American but this is officially ignored and never is mentioned in the American media. Much of this growing problem is directed at the brutal actions of Israel against Palestinians. Israelis have an undue influence in the American political scene. The very far right so-called neo-cons are almost all Jewish and most are Israeli citizens. Also, the middle-level ranks of American CIA personnel are heavily infiltrated by Israelis and it is said that any secret the CIA has is at once passed to Israel and that countries needs are assuming importance in CIA actions.

The attitudes of the working class Americans were inflamed during the last presidential elections by Mr. Trump who catered to them and encouraged rebellious attitudes. By speaking against Central American illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has caused a polarization of attitudes and the militant right wing in America, currently small in number but well-organized and potentially very dangerous, has begun to make its views very well known in public demonstrations.

This movement has played into the hands of far-right American political manipulators.

It is their intention to clandestinely arm these groups and use them to cause violent public confrontations with the far left groups.

By causing this potential violence, the manipulators intend to use the American military to move into unstable area to, as they say, ‘establish law and order’ while in reality, they will use martial law to firm up their basic control of a potentially fractious public.

It is then intended, according to information, to incorporate organized, para-military groups into a sort of domestic Federal police force. These people will not be punished for their actions but rewarded and utilized to ensure further right-wing control of the country.

It is well known that after the perceived very liberal administration of the left-leaning William Clinton, the far right wing of the Republican Party was determined to get control of the White House just as they then had control of Congress. They were well on their way to stacking the third branch of our government, the judicial.

 

Canada’s high Arctic glaciers at risk of disappearing completely, study finds

Satellite imagery shows hundreds of glaciers shrinking as average annual temperature rises 3.6C in 70 years

July 17, 2018

by Ashifa Kassam in Toronto

The Guardian

Hundreds of glaciers in Canada’s high Arctic are shrinking and many are at risk of disappearing completely, an unprecedented inventory of glaciers in the country’s northernmost island has revealed.

Using satellite imagery, researchers catalogued more than 1,700 glaciers in northern Ellesmere Island and traced how they had changed between 1999 and 2015.

The results offered a glimpse into how warming temperatures may be affecting ice in the region, from glaciers that sprawl across the land to the 200-metre thick ice shelves, said Adrienne White, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa.

“It’s an area that’s very difficult to study,” said White. “Logistically it’s very hard to get to and even with satellite imagery – for the longest time Google Earth didn’t even have complete imagery – it was kind of the forgotten place.”

White’s study, published last month in the Journal of Glaciology, found that the glaciers had shrank by more than 1,700 sq km of over a 16-year period, representing a loss of about 6%.

A previous study of glaciers in the region – which used air photos and did not include ice shelves – showed a loss of 927 sq km between 1959 and 2000, hinting that the pace of loss may be increasing.

Of the 1,773 glaciers tracked by White, 1,353 were found to have shrunk significantly. A handful had disappeared altogether: “What we found is a loss of three complete ice shelves,” she said. “In terms of glaciers that terminate on land, we’ve lost three small ice caps.”

None of the glaciers in the study showed any signs of growing.

The findings echo the changes White has observed during her years of visiting the island. “We see a lot more icebergs,” said White. “Where there was one continuous ice shelf, we now see individual icebergs broken up, we see a lot more crevasses.”

She attributed the findings to an increase in temperatures. Canada’s Arctic – one of the world’s most glaciated regions – is warming at one of the fastest rates of anywhere on Earth.

In northern Ellesmere Island, the annual average temperature in the region increased by 3.6C between 1948 and 2016.

In particular, “there seemed to be a shift in the mid-90s,” she said, describing it as a “sudden increase in warming,” that saw temperatures increase at about 0.78C per decade between 1995 and 2016.

“These increases were greatest in autumn and winter,” she said. “So what you end up with is a lot more melt.”

While the most direct impact is rising sea levels, the melting ice also risks wiping out the region’s unique ecosystems, such as the freshwater lakes that form when the water flowing off a glacier is trapped by a floating ice shelf.

“When these glaciers break away, all of a sudden there’s nothing holding back these ecosystems that have been growing and developing for thousands of years,” said White. “And they’re gone before we even have the chance to study them.”

Extrapolating from research done on glaciers from a neighbouring island, White’s study suggested that many of the glaciers on northern Ellesmere Island may not be high enough to accumulate enough snow to counter the pace at which they are melting. “Without growth, that glacier is just in a state of loss,” she said. “It will disappear if climates don’t change.”

 

Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 45

July 17, 2018

CYBER WAR AS A CAREER PATH

Military cyber operations have been normalized to the point that there is now a defined career path for would-be cyber warriors in the U.S. Air Force and a formal curriculum for training them.

The role of a cyber war specialist, which includes defense as well as offense, is “to develop, sustain, and enhance cyberspace capabilities to defend national interests from attack and to create effects in cyberspace to achieve national objectives,” according to new Air Force guidance that was published this week.

The Air Force training plan outlines the anticipated career progression of its cyber warriors, and describes the tasks that they must master. See Cyber Warfare Operations Career Field Education and Training Plan, CFETP 1B4X1, July 15, 2018.

Offensively, trainees must learn methods such as buffer overflow tactics and techniques, privilege escalation, rootkits, redirection and triggering, tunneling, and so forth. Defensive methods include encryption, secure enclaves, boundary protection, intrusion detection, etc.

A select group of especially competent trainees will be selected “to futher develop their skills in the areas of secure system design, vulnerability analysis, computer network defense (CND), and computer network exploitation (CNE)” in joint programs with the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command.

The programs will enhance students’ technical skills and will help to “bridge gaps between typical Computer Science/Engineering curriculum and those necessary for Computer Network Attack / Exploitation / Defense.”

“Each intern must complete at least one offensive and at least one defensive tour during the program,” the guidance said.

*    *    *

Some other noteworthy new military doctrinal and other publications include the following.

Human Remains Associated with Sunken Military Craft, SecNav Instruction 5360.2, July 11, 2018. Navy policy normally precludes efforts to recover the remains of those lost at sea. “The Department of the Navy (DON) has long recognized the sea as a fit and final resting place for personnel who perish at sea.”

The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is now named for Senator McCain as well as for his father and grandfather. “As a prisoner of war, [Sen.] McCain represented our nation with dignity and returned with honor,” wrote Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer in a July 12 memorandum memorializing the designation.

The production of electric power for military operations is addressed in a new Army manual. “Modern warfare relies on electrically powered systems, making electricity an essential element that supports warfighting functions.” Though nuclear power systems have previously played a role in the Army, there is no mention of nuclear reactors or isotope power in the new publication. See ATP 3-34.45, Electric Power Generation and Distribution, July 6, 2018

SSCI REQUIRES STRATEGY FOR COUNTERING RUSSIA

In its new report on the FY 18-19 Intelligence Authorization bill, published today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence would require the Director of National Intelligence “to develop a whole-of-government strategy for countering Russian cyber threats against United States electoral systems and processes.”

As if to underscore the gulf in the perception of the Russian threat that separates President Trump and the US intelligence community, the Senate Intelligence Committee comes down firmly on the side of the latter, taking “Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 United States presidential election” as a given and an established fact.

The Senate report describes numerous other provisions of interest on election security, classification policy, cybersecurity, and more.

The House Intelligence Committee published its report on the pending FY18-19 intelligence authorization bill earlier this month.

TIT-FOR-TAT TARIFF MEASURES, AND MORE FROM CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

  • Tit-for-Tat Tariff Measures and U.S. Trade Policy, CRS Insight, July 11, 2018
  • Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs, updated July 11, 2018
  • Military Transition Assistance Program (TAP): An Overview, CRS In Focus, updated July 12, 2018
  • Risk and Needs Assessment in the Federal Prison System, updated July 10, 2018
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings for a Supreme Court Nominee: Overview, CRS Insight, July 12, 2018
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy: His Jurisprudence and the Future of the Court, July 11, 2018

Dirty Deeds Revealed

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

If one were to obtain a one gallon glass jug, fill it mostly full of gasoline, and then add some concentrated sulfuric acid and cap it, one could also make some fire fudge using a mixture of potassium chlorate and sugar, carefully heated, and soak some paper towels in the mixture.
These can then be wrapped around the jug and held in place with rubber bands.

If you put this jug down into one of those curbside 55 gallon wheeled garbage cans, when the garbage truck people swing by early in the morning, they empty the contents down into the truck and drive to the next can.

Soon enough, someone activates the compressor, the glass jug breaks and all the liquid runs out into the truck.

When the compressor is retracted, the inrushing air causes the acid to react with the potassium chlorate and it ignites.

There goes the truck.

And there go the terrified Mexican attendants, screeching for the Virgin of Guadalupe to protect them.

I also find that if you put two double-ought buckshot into a number 9 gelatin capsule, along with a piece of metallic sodium, dropping it into a car gas tank can prove entertaining in the extreme.

I used to use a bit of sculpting wax stuck inside the gas pipe into the tank and place the capsule onto it.

If and when the car hits a small pot hole or bump, the capsule falls down into the tank and drops to the bottom.

There is condensed water there, water that soon eats through the gelatin capsule and ignites the metallic sodium.

This will result in interesting fireworks and very often the trunk lid is blasted up into the air like a giant tiddlywink.

The car also catches on fire and gives other motorists something to talk about for weeks.

I have also found that the wonderful M-80, which has a fuse that burns under water, if lit and dropped into a toilet and immediately flushed, will result in a terrible eruption deep in the piping system.
Do this in a high-rise office building or hotel room and somewhere below you, water and feces will leak into an innocent office or room below.

Or if you are at ground level, the blast can, and does, ignite the methane gas found in sewers and manhole covers can sail through the air with the greatest of ease with columns of blue flame beneath them.

Another method of dealing with hotels and apartment house managers is to buy a box of fresh, uncooked prawns at the market.

Peel the prawns and cut them into smaller pieces. Remove the screwed-on plates for wall electric sockets and switches and put pieces of raw prawn into the boxes, being careful not to contact the electrical outlets.

Then replace the plates.

Eventually, the shell fish will decay and the areas surrounding them will be pervaded with a nauseous stench that is almost impossible to locate the source of. The apartment or hotel room will be unlivable for some time and in the event someone takes off the plate to search for the source of the vile odor, note that shellfish will rot away and leave nothing but a small sticky stain behind.

This was done in a nasty bank one time but on a larger scale.

A large, cooked Dungeness crab was wrapped in paper and put into a safe deposit box. Within a week, the stench in the bank vault was so bad that no employee would enter it. The bank could not locate the source of the smell so a number of deposit boxes had to be drilled open.

Of course the DHS has the right to break into any and all American bank safe deposit boxes whenever it wishes but the smell would be so bad that not even a DHS agent could put up with it. That is how bad it is.

And there is always the bottle of single-malt liquor, seals intact, but with the contents of cheap Scotch laced heavily with croton oil. And this left in some strategic spot like the entrance to a police station or Pat Robertson’s Jesus Emporium.

Croton oil is a wonderful laxative, none better.

One drop would move an elephant.
My sluttish sister had a pea-brained policeman as a boyfriend, among other serious moral faults, and he did not like me very much.
He used to gobble down any free candy he could find in the house so I mixed croton oil with oil of wintergreen and injected the mixture into soft-centered mints.
I put these in the candy dish in the living room and waited.

He greedily gobbled handfuls of candy, smiling as he did so.

The result was explosive and the cop spent a wretched half an hour soiling one of the lavatories and never came back.

He had a badly-prolapsed rectum and burst hemorrhoids.

It took two hours, a wire brush and a bottle of antiseptic solution to return the lavatory to a passable normal.

He drove away in a panic and I am told his car seat was not to be spoken of in mixed company.

He never sought my sister’s company again.

But I had the foresight to replace the remnants of the loaded candy with clean samples.

One must be careful, after all!

 

 

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